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NXT: 10 Best Matches of 2023 (Part 1)

NXT 2023 Best Matches Collage

NXT Matches
(Credit: WWE)

NXT: 10 Best Matches of 2023 (Part 1)

We have already seen the best of NJPW, AEW, and the WWE main roster, but now it’s time to conclude our look back on 2023 with a little shout out to NXT. Part developmental territory, part indie, part main roster rehab, NXT had one of its best years in a long time in 2023 thanks to a renewed focus. They weren’t trying to recreate the ‘black and gold’ era and they weren’t really acknowledging the 2.0 era, they were taking the best of both worlds.

2023 was the beginning of a fresh new era of NXT, so it’s only right that we give the young guns of WWE a list of their own. Since they are just one brand that’s part of a bigger company, we will only cover their 10 best matches instead of 20. However, that doesn’t make these matches any less great than some we’ve already covered.

My name is Sam Palmer from Vendetta Sports Media, and here is part one of our countdown for NXT’s 10 best matches of 2023.

10. Wes Lee vs. Dijak [NXT North American Championship] – Vengeance Day:

Wes Lee vs Dijak
(Credit: WWE)

Easily the best match on the Vengeance Day card saw Wes Lee prove why WWE had so much confidence in him following the disbandment of MSK. Lee’s partner, Nash Carter, left the company in 2022 leaving Wes all alone to fend for himself. Not many people knew how he would cope as a singles wrestler, but winning the NXT North American Championship in 2022 seemed to signal that he was going to be okay. However, it was his reign with the title that solidified this fact.

One of the best defenses came against Dijak, who had once again made NXT his home after a less-than-desirable run on the main roster. This was a match that was a good old-fashioned throwback to the “black and gold” era of high-paced action, a lot of near falls and a clash of styles that had the fans on their feet coming into the finishing stretch. Lee is currently on the sidelines with an injury and won’t be back for a while, but let’s hope he makes a full recovery so we get to see matches like this.

9. Grayson Waller vs. Johnny Gargano [Unsanctioned Match] – Stand & Deliver:

Johnny Gargano vs Grayson Waller
(Credit: WWE)

Grayson Waller needed a little bit of rehab following his championship feud against Bron Breakker, so who better to bring his full potential out of him than Mr. NXT himself: Johnny Gargano. Gargano was another main roster performer who made a brief return to where it all started for him in WWE, partly to get some air time, but also to teach Waller a lesson on what it means to be part of a brand like NXT.

This unsanctioned match isn’t the most brutal WWE match there has ever been, but what these two men produced in this match was a boatload of fun. Gargano proved that he was still able to produce an NXT TakeOver-esque match, and Waller proved that there was more to him than just a lot of talk. Even Candice LeRae got involved for a brief cameo in a bout that was a star-making performance for Grayson Waller, and a reminder that Gargano was still fantastic in the ring.

8. Ilja Dragunov vs. Carmelo Hayes [NXT Championship] – Halloween Havoc [Week 2]:

Ilja Dragunov vs Carmelo Hayes 3
(Credit: WWE)

Given all the miles these two men covered on the independent scene throughout the 2010s, it’s no surprise that when they got to mix it up in NXT, it rocked. Hayes shined through as a top guy in NXT in 2023, and he found his perfect dance partner in the form of Ilja Dragunov. These two had three matches for the NXT Championship, with this being their third bout and by this point, Dragunov had figured Carmelo out.

The only one of their three matches to take place on free TV, it was a perfect showcase of how violent Dragunov can be now that he is champion. He needs to keep hold of that title at all costs, and if that means almost murdering one of his greatest rivals in front of the world then that’s what he’s going to do. The ending set both men up for the future in a satisfying way too, with Trick Williams’ interference playing into the finish and setting up a feud with Hayes, and Ilja could look for a fresh challenge. The blow off to the best NXT rivalry of the year.

#7. The Creed Brothers vs. Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo [Tables, Ladders & Scares Match] – Halloween Havoc [Week 2]:

The Creed Brothers vs Angel and Humberto
(Credit: WWE)

Despite Dragunov and Hayes III main eventing the show, it didn’t end up being the best match of the night. That prize went to one of the most exciting tag teams in WWE today, The Creed Brothers, taking on Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo in a “Tables, Ladders and Scares Match.” What is a TLS Match? It’s essentially a no-disqualification match, but spooky. However, what was scary was some of the bumps these four men took in this bout.

This acted as The Creed Brothers’ swan song in NXT before they made the main roster their permanent home, and what a way to go out. Brutus and Julius got to show off their ungodly strength whilst being great bases for Angel and Humberto to fly around them. All four of them took some nasty bumps that even some of the more experienced hardcore wrestlers would wince at, and to everyone’s surprise, this became one of the best plunderfests anyone had seen all year.

6. Becky Lynch vs. Tiffany Stratton [Extreme Rules Match for the NXT Women’s Championship] – No Mercy:

Becky Lynch vs Tiffany Stratton
(Credit: WWE)

Speaking of plunderfests, Tiffany Stratton is the future of the business, isn’t she? The 24-year-old won the NXT Women’s Championship at Battleground in May and showcased herself as one of the most exciting talents in all of wrestling. However, her lack of experience was put on full display when Becky Lynch decided to cross the last championship she hadn’t won off her list. Instead of letting her spotlight get taken away from her, Stratton wanted revenge.

Another weapons-fueled Extreme Rules match that ended up main eventing the No Mercy PLE at the end of September, what Stratton lacked in experience, she made up for in outrageous levels of talent. Lynch didn’t carry Tiffany to a great match, Tiffany more than held her own in there. More brutal spots, another star-making performance, and the best women’s match NXT produced in 2023.

That’s it for part one, stay tuned for part two as we reveal what the best NXT match of 2023 was! Don’t forget to follow myself and Vendetta Sports Media on all your favorite social media platforms.

***

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